Dark Carnival Session Four Part 2 - Night at the Carnival
CoC 1-6e Jazz Age
* * *
Joseph, meanwhile, had gone to the security shack at the south end of the game fairway. The shack was a small, one-room clapboard building with windows in the front and side. The interior was dominated by a potbellied stove in the center with a desk and two chairs. A wall rack held a 12-guage double barrel shotgun, a Winchester rifle, and a Springfield rifle. A set of keys hung on the wall next to it.
The man behind the desk was very large and rough-looking. He wore a ring of keys on his belt and had a Wesley revolver on his right hip, a nightstick on the other, and a pair of handcuffs. He looked angry.
“Can I help you?” he said in a thick accent that sounded like he came from New York.
“I heard you’ve had some occurrences around the park lately and I was wondering if you might require any assistance in the security,” Joseph said. “Maybe hiring.”
“We had one kid run away. That’s it.”
“What about that man with the arm ripped off?”
“That happened over in Swan Point Cemetery.”
“I thought they found him by the pony rides.”
“He came into the park. He was in the park earlier in the evening. They went off into the cemetery, and they were attacked there. That is not … that didn’t have anything to do with the park.”
“Gotcha, so no job openings here?”
“Sorry. Nope. I got everything under control.”
Joseph looked at the man.
“If you want to fill out a form, I can take your name and all that stuff,” the man said.
“No, that’s fine,” Joseph said.
“All right. Mr. Wyatt might hire some more people.”
“Should I contact him?”
“No. Don’t bother him. I’ll need to talk to him first. He’s the park owner. And … if you contact him about a job … he’s probably not gonna have nothing for yak. If you wanna go look in the park manager’s office, you’re welcome. He might there. It is awful late though.”
He looked up at the clock on the wall. It was about 6 p.m.
“He’s probably gone home,” the man said. “But you’re welcome to try at the manager’s office. Pretty nurse up there.”
“Well, have a great day, sir,” Joseph said.
The man nodded and Joseph left.
He went to the Tunnel of Terrors and waited until Father Oein came out.
“Did you notice anything in there?” he asked the priest.
“No,” Father Oein said. “Just really campy. Did you get anywhere.”
“Well, I guess there’s nothing left to do but meet up with the others.”
They decided to go the police precinct nearest to Swan Point Cemetery. When they arrived and told the desk sergeant they knew Bricker, the man was happy to show them where he was. He told them a story about his motorcar not working and then took them back. They joined the search for information.
“Truth and deception,” Father Oein muttered about the fortune teller. “Set me free.”
* * *
Miss Fairfield had found several cases, starting with more recent reports and working her way back.
On Saturday, May 21, 1927, Thomas Judd, 38, of Providence, was reported missing. He had become separated from his family at the North Star Amusement Arcade and Pleasure Pier and did not meet them at the trolley station at Blackstone Boulevard and Hope Street as planned. His wife became alarmed and contacted police. A search of the amusement park found nothing.
On Saturday, July 17, 1926, Emma Rhodes, 16, of Providence, was reported missing. She was last seen riding her bicycle towards the City Dump. Her vehicle was found in a pile of burning debris. She was listed as runaway.
On Tuesday, June 22, 1926, Julian Tifft, 17, of Providence, was reported missing. He was last seen by friends who dared him to spend the night in Swan Point Cemetery. His jacket was found on the ground near a tree as if he had slept there. He was listed as runaway.
On Saturday, August 29, 1925, Juliana Fenner, 29, of Providence, was reported missing. She was last seen at the North Star Amusement Arcade and Pleasure Pier where she had spent the day with friends. She had last visited the House of Mirrors and got separated from her friends.
On Monday, August 8, 1925, Justin Thrope, 22, of Providence, was reported missing after failing to return home after a day at the North Star Amusement Arcade and Pleasure Pier. His automobile was found in the parking area of the amusement park.
On Tuesday, July 21, 1925, Sophia Nightingale, 40, of Providence, was reported missing. A “to-do” list at her home indicated she planned to visit her father’s grave at Swan Point Cemetery, then go grocery shopping, and then spend the night with friends. Fresh flowers were found on her father’s grave.
Joell pointed out what happened to Kent Howard was strange but guessed if the girl he’d been with had been alone, she would have just disappeared and no one would know why. He thought the only way the dump might be relevant is if the people from the amusement park were using the dump to get rid of evidence. He pointed out anytime anyone went alone to the amusement park or the cemetery, they had a chance of not coming back. Father Oein noted he went alone but nothing happened to him.
“Noises in the cemetery,” he said. “Dancing people in the cemetery. Demons under the cemetery.”
“Spontaneous combustion in the cemetery,” Joseph said.
“I think we need to go check the cemetery,” Father Oein said.
They had already searched the cemetery several times.
Joell didn’t think talking to the relatives of the missing people would help. He thought the best lead would be talking to the police superintendent, talking to Kent Howard, or getting into the carnie houses. Joseph was for breaking into the houses. Miss Fairfield talked about the basement of the menagerie Ingerton had been interested in.
Bricker remembered the filth spewing down from some kind of pump in the caverns and guessed it was connected to the restrooms in the carnival.
Joell suggested they go back to the carnival after it closed that night and if it didn’t work out, they could follow up with more research. Bricker was not going into the place without being armed and Joell wanted his baseball bat and his pistol. Joseph wanted to change clothes and get his rifle. Father Oein agreed to drive everyone to their homes to retrieve what they wanted.
Joseph wanted something to cover his face and settled for a bandana doused in cologne in case they had to go through sewage again. Father Oein also stopped at the rectory to retrieve holy water and a bible.
* * *
Father Oein pulled his hardtop Model T Ford into the bushes just off Alfred Stone Road a half mile from the cemetery. They crept up the road to the park, arriving after midnight. It had stopped raining but was still overcast. The carnival was dark aside from a few pools of light scattered around the place, one over the front door of the security shack. They crept into the park on the south side near the wall to the cemetery. Miss Fairfield wondered if the cellar doors were locked and Joell noted there was a ring of keys in the security shack.
They crept to the far side of the Grand Menagerie where a set of cellar doors stood. While the others went to the cellar doors, Joseph hid near the cemetery wall where he could see both his fellows and the security shack.
A chugging or hum of machinery came from the cellar doors, which were held closed with a padlock. Each of them tried to pick the lock but none of them had any success. Miss Fairfield almost had it but couldn’t get it to open. Father Oein said they’d have to try to the security shack then.
They crept to the security shack and peeked into the window between it and the Grand Menagerie. It was dark in the shack and Joseph tried the front door, finding it locked. Several of them tried, unsuccessfully, to pick the lock. They returned to the window nearest the Grand Menagerie. Joell shined a flashlight in the window and Bricker and Father Oein noticed the keys hanging on the wall behind the desk within.
“They’re right there,” Father Oein said.
They discussed whether or not to break the window or break down the front door. Then Joseph heard a dog barking in the distance. He went pale and fled to the Penny Pitch Booth, leaping over the counter and disappearing within.
“All right,” Joell said, ignoring it. “Are we taking this window out?”
Miss Fairfield nodded and Joell reared back with his bat.
“Uh …” Bricker said.
“Unless we have objections,” Joell said.
Bricker wanted to muffle it somehow and took off his coat, putting it over the window. He told the other man to tap it instead of smashing it. Joell tried to rear back and shove the bat through but it didn’t break on the first try. Or the second.
“Give me that!” Miss Fairfield said.
She shoved the bat at the window and there was a muffled tinkling of glass. She gave him his bat back. He looked embarrassed but headed for the window. Jagged glass was around the sides and he looked uncomfortably at it but started to climb through.
“You can unlock it now,” Miss Fairfield said.
She reached into the broken window, unlatched it, and pushed up the sash. Joell climbed clumsily in, retrieved the keys, and returned, handing them out the window. Miss Fairfield took the keys and Joell slipped out the window. Joseph nonchalantly walked back over to them.
“What was that all about?” Father Oein asked him. He didn’t answer.
They headed for the cellar doors and Miss Fairfield found the right key and opened the lock. Wide cellar steps went down with a slide on one side that looked like a coal chute. The noise of machinery was louder with the doors open and they felt a good deal of heat coming out of the place.
They crept down to find a cobblestone-floored cellar with stone walls. Eight coal-fired boilers were in the room, connected to generators. Each of the boilers had been stoked and they guessed the room was where they generated power for the park. A large bin of coal stood opposite the boilers. They guessed there was enough coal in the boilers to keep a trickle of electricity going to the people who lived on the premises at night. Joseph guessed there was enough to run them all night long.
“That’s legitimately disappointing,” Father Oein said.
“Well, while we’re here, we can check out other places,” Joell said. “Now that we have the keys.”
They left the cellar, closed the doors, and locked them. Joseph found a rock and tossed it into the security shack.
They discussed where else to search so long as they were there.
They crept to the House of Mirrors. The single-story wooden structure was cunningly painted to resemble trick. There were two doors in the front, an entrance and an exit. Both were locked and the building had no windows. Miss Fairfield eventually found the correct key and they entered the building through the entrance door, closing it behind them. Miss Fairfield locked it and kept the key handy.
They spent an hour searching the halls in the house of mirrors. It was disorienting, especially with the lights off, going only by flashlights. At one point, Father Oein, Miss Fairfield, and Joseph thought they heard whispering or laughter that seemed far away. Miss Fairfield tried to move the mirrors, hoping to find some kind of secret passage. She had no luck. By the time they had searched the entire place, they couldn’t hear the noises any more.
Was it the demons they had dealt with before?
They discussed where to go next and settled on either the Fun House or the Tunnel of Terrors. It was pointed out the slime had been found in the Tunnel of Terrors. They finally decided on the Tunnel of Terrors.
They left the House of Mirrors, Miss Fairfield locking the door again. They crept out past the ticket booth out front. Joseph Johnson saw what looked like a shadow in the ticket booth and told the others.
“I don’t think so,” Father Oein said.
“In the ticket booth,” Joseph said.
“No. I don’t see anything over there.”
“The ticket booth. I’m going to go over there.”
The others didn’t see anything booth but Joseph insisted he did.
“There’s nothing there,” Father Oein said.
Miss Fairfield agreed.
Joseph guessed whomever was there had ducked down.
“I’m pretty sure someone’s in the ticket booth,” he said.
“I’ll go check,” Father Oein said. “I’ll go look.”
He went to the ticket booth and shined his flashlight in. Joseph followed and shined his light as well. No one was in there but he was certain there had been. Perhaps it was just a shadow.
Joseph heard another dog barking in the distance. He grabbed the ticket booth door but found it locked. Then he backed up into the center of the group, crouching and looking around in a panic. The others looked at him like he was crazy.
“Are you okay to be out here, Joseph?” Joell asked.
“Yeah,” Joseph said. “Yeah.”
“You need to go back to the car?” Father Oein said.
“No,” Joseph said. “No. I’d rather be here with you.”
He couldn’t hear the dog barking anymore and felt much better.
They continued to the Tunnel of Terrors. A ticket booth stood outside of the massive building. Both of the swinging doors for the entrance and exit had a chain and lock over them. It took a while for Miss Fairfield to find the correct key to unlock the padlock holding the entrance shut. She pocketed the lock and heavy chain.
It was very dark within.
Joseph looked in a small, open booth or compartment next to the entrance. It was completely open on the sides and there was an angled counter. In the back were a lever, dials, and switches. All were labeled and he found switches for interior and exterior lights. The main lever was probably for starting the carts.
They discussed lighting the interior lights but decided to just use their flashlights.
They split up. Joell and Father Oein headed for the back of the ride in the hopes of finding some kind of secret door. Joell was doubtful they’d find anything. Joseph started to look along the tracks for what activated various parts of the ride or caused the machinery to activate when the cart passed. He hoped to find some kind of switch that wasn’t tied to anything else. Miss Fairfield and Bricker headed along the tracks to find where they had spotted the strange goo or ooze they had found before.
They all noticed, if they hadn’t before, that the flats that divided up the ride and were the background for the various frightening displays were not connected completely. They overlapped, allowing enough space for someone to move between the various sections of the ride without having to follow the track the entire way.
* * *
Miss Fairfield and Bricker were, they thought, almost at the place where they had spotted the ooze a few days before when there was a grinding noise and carts started to move. The sound effect noises also started to come into play throughout the building. Miss Bricker drew her revolver and Bricker pulled the shotgun off his shoulder. They headed back towards the front of the ride.
* * *
When the ride turned on Joell and Father Oein stopped moving. They had almost reached the back of the building, they thought. Joell had his baseball bat in one hand and his revolver in the other. Father Oein had a bottle of holy water in one hand and a crucifix in the other. They continued towards the back wall.
When they reached the area, Joell searched for a secret door by tapping on the walls and looking around.
* * *
Joseph raised his rifle when the ride started. He headed back down the track towards the entrance. He looked outside when the doors opened and the carts came in. He stepped out but saw no one around or in the booth. He looked for a place to hide, picking a spot behind one of the mannequins outside in the front of the building.
* * *
Miss Fairfield and Bricker reached the front of the ride, going out through the main doors. At one point, a mechanical ghost slammed into Bricker. Miss Fairfield almost got hit by an axe wielded by a mechanical axe-wielding maniac. The device usually swung over the heads of the ride-goers but she was standing and was almost struck by it.
They exited the ride, Miss Fairfield going to the control booth. The main lever had been pulled down and the interior lighting switches had been turned on. The exterior lights were still off. She noticed the lock and chain over the exit doors to the ride was gone. Then Miss Fairfield saw a note on the angled counter at the front of the booth. It read: “Git ye on the ride” in a shaky but legible script. The piece of paper was dirty. She picked it up.
They also saw Joseph hiding out front of the ride right in the light. He walked over.
* * *
Father Oein looked around while Joell searched the back wall of the ride. Then, around one of the flats, he saw a shadowy arm sticking out and gesturing with one finger for him to come that way. He thought it must be part of the ride. When he shined his flashlight on it, it was gone.
“Joell!” he hissed. “Joell, I think I saw something over here!”
“You did!?!” Joell said.
Joell joined the priest and looked back down the track along the ride. Where they stood held dancing skeletons and back the way they’d come, the various flats and walls blocked the sightline. Father Oein pointed at a wall that separated off the area they were in from the display before it.
“It didn’t look right,” Father Oein said.
“What was it?” Joell asked.
“It was … it looked like … something going like this,” Father Oein said.
He gestured, hand up, with one finger, beckoning.
“It just didn’t look right,” he said.
“All right,” Joell said. “You’re on the flashlight. I’m staying on this side of the wall and I’m pointing my gun at it. And you’re going to show me exactly where it was and we’re going to see exactly what the heck is going on.”
Father Oein pointed the light in the direction of the thing he’d seen. Joell crossed the rail and told the man to follow behind him. They crept forward towards the display where they saw Henry VIII holding a giant turkey leg. The machine made a laughing noise. Nearby, a headsman cut off the head of Ann Boleyn.
“That’s not what I saw,” Father Oein said as the dead king laughed strangely in the background. “I saw a gesture. It said ‘follow me - come this way.’”
They shined the light all around.
* * *
Miss Fairfield examined the note. The scrap of paper was dirty and crumpled. The writing was crude but also curly and fancy. It was written in ink.
“Who wants to get on the ride?” Joseph said when he saw it. “We came here to discover stuff.”
“This is the biggest lead we have,” Miss Fairfield agreed. “I’m not sure we should go though.”
The doors bumped open and swung closed as they talked.
“All right,” Bricker said.
“I’ll get in the cart,” Joseph said.
“I’ll get in the one behind you,” Miss Fairfield said.
“Wait, we’re splitting up in the carts? Because there’s sections where the carts cannot see each other anymore.”
They all climbed into the same cart. It was tight but they were able to manage it if Miss Fairfield sat on Bricker’s lap, as he was huge.
They rode through the ride, Miss Fairfield and Bricker keeping an eye out for anything they hadn’t seen before.
* * *
“I’m following your lead,” Father Oein said. “Whatever you want to do. I saw something down here, I swear.”
He looked at the laughing, mechanical Henry VIII.
“And it wasn’t that joker,” he muttered.
“All right,” Joell said. “I’ll tell you what we’re going to do.”
“We’ve got to keep in mind that this might be dangerous, but if you want to follow this back towards the entrance, we’re going to look at every corner, we’re going to move as slow as we can so that nothing can get the spook on us, and we’re going to move together─”
“─going down here.”
They started to follow the tracks back towards the entrance.
* * *
The cart was approaching the place where the display showed the man having his head chopped off. They could hear the screeching scream of the mechanism. They saw what appeared to be flashlights ahead, somewhere close by. Bricker remembered it was where the ooze had been before.
The floor suddenly lifted up in front of them and the cart headed down into the ground.
* * *
Joell and Father Oein had just come around a corner when they saw the floor pivot upwards ahead of them and a cart with the others disappear under it.
Those idiots! Joell thought.
“Joell!” Miss Fairfield called. “Save us!”
He looked at Father Oein.
“Strength in numbers, right?” he said.
He ran around the pivoted floor and down into the hole. Father Oein groaned and followed.
The ground proved uneven as they ran down the steep incline. Joell sprinted after the cart, heedless of the danger, and grabbed the back of it. He lost his footing and his feet went out from under him. The cart dragged him along the track, his legs and feet slamming into the floor. Miss Fairfield saw the man and grabbed him by the shirt and belt, dragging him into the cart
* * *
Father Oein had not seen any of the antics at the cart. He had fallen upon entering the underground tunnel and his flashlight had gone out with a tinkle of broken glass as he struck the ground. The crucifix flew out of his other hand. He looked up to see the cart disappear around a curve, Miss Fairfield pulling Joell aboard, leaving him in pitch blackness. He looked back when he heard a clanking noise and the trapdoor closed above him with a clunk.
Yeah, that seems about right, he thought.
* * *
The cart headed downward at a steep angle through a narrow and low tunnel for a short time before it rolled out onto a track in a larger cave, slowing to a stop. Two of the terrible things with hoofed feet and muzzles stood there as if waiting for them. Three of them recognized the same things they had dealt with a few nights ago. Miss Fairfield had never seen their like, but held herself together.
The things muttered and gibbered, gesturing them to come with them.
“Was the father with you?” Miss Fairfield asked Joell.
* * *
Lying in the dark, Father Oein realized he was on a steep incline. He could not hear anything since the cart had rolled away. He stumbled to his feet and started to head down the incline, but soon realized it was going downward too steeply and worried about falling again. He sat down, scooting on his butt down the track and hoping for the best.
* * *
“These are the things that, last time, they didn’t attack us,” Joell said as Miss Fairfield shined her flashlight back into the tunnel. “But they wanted … they were eating rotten flesh. They were feeding on flesh. And they wanted us to get those dead people for them. So …”
Neither Bricker nor Joseph would look at the terrible things.
“No,” Joseph said. “No. Go away.”
The things laughed at that.
“Do they understand us?” Miss Fairfield asked.
“One does,” Joseph said.
“There is only one who speaks English,” Joell said, staring at the horrible things. “About hearing English? I can’t tell.”
“Well, there was one more with us,” Miss Fairfield said.
The things jabbered among themselves.
Miss Fairfield climbed out of the cart and the things pointed off in the direction the track ran. They could see there was another hole where the rail apparently headed back upwards. The things pointed beyond that hole. She looked back the way they had come.
“Father Oein!” she called.
* * *
Father Oein heard someone call his name from down below. The words were distorted and barely recognizable.
* * *
There was no reply.
“I’m going to go see if he made it,” Miss Fairfield said.
The stinking creatures laughed. Joseph climbed out of the cart and followed her, eliciting more laughter from the horrible things. They spoke together in strange, high-pitched, meeping voices. Joell got out of the cart and looked at the things. Bricker got out but wouldn’t look at the terrible things, keeping Joell between him and them. Joell pointed his pistol at them but they just laughed at him.
* * *
Father Oein saw lights approaching him and tried to hide in a shadow. He was spotted immediately by the other two as they came around the curve of the tunnel. He realized that his hiding place was not a very good one but couldn’t see who held the flashlights.
“Father Oein,” Miss Fairfield said.
“Yes?” he said.
He was surprised he had been found by his companions.
“We weren’t sure if you made it,” Joseph said. “But you’re not going to like what’d down there.”
“What?” Father Oein said. “Why not?”
“It’s … it’s them jackal-men.”
“You know. Big snouts. Claws.”
“Yeah. They’re waiting for us down there. They’re trying to usher us somewhere.”
“Oh … I really don’t want to go that way.”
“So, the hatch closed behind us, right?”
“Guess we’ll have to follow them.”
* * *
“So, this just popped into my head and it’s a little haunting, right?” Joell said to the cowering Bricker. “Why would somebody let us know that there is a hatch …”
One of the things had approached him and poked at his flashlight.
“Why would somebody let us know there is a hatch in the Tunnel of Terrors that this boy went down, if they were either not aligned with the people who were trying to take people or they don’t plan to let us go?” Joell continued.
“Hm,” Bricker said.
* * *
“There’s no, really, any other way to go,” Miss Fairfield said, heading back down.
“If there’s no way to go, I don’t want to just be stuck here,” Father Oein said.
He looked at Joseph. The man nodded and headed back down. Father Oein followed him, frowning.
* * *
Miss Fairfield was greeted with laughter from the creatures when she came out of the tunnel.
“We found him,” she told the others. “He was kind of cowering. Maybe he’ll head this way.”
“I was just talking to Bricker,” Joell said. “I think these things aren’t aligned with the carnival people who are … I supposed, trying to abduct people, or they’re trying to kill us. Why else would they let us down here in this hatch that nobody’s supposed to know about if they don’t want to let us go or if they don’t want to help the people?”
“Well, the note was from them. I assume. Unless carnies are really bad at writing.”
“Can they write English and not speak it, then? Or was it that one that speaks English?”
“We could ask them if they left it,” Bricker said.
“I think they would have already talked to us if …” Joell said.
Miss Fairfield took out the note.
“Did you … write this?” she asked.
The creatures looked at it carefully and then burst out in laughter. Then they pointed the same way they pointed before.
“I assume it’s their leader,” Miss Fairfield said.
“Well, he seemed like he wasn’t totally attached to the carnival people, so … if you want to go, I’ll go,” Joell said. “But, we are not welcome here. At least for some of the people who …”
“I think they’re pretty much as welcoming as they can be.”
“Where else are we going to go, right?”
Father Oein and Joseph came out of the hole in the wall. Father Oein jumped when he saw the terrible creatures again, letting out a yelp. The things laughed and gestured for them to follow, filling the priest with a terrible sense that the hand he had seen above had been one of theirs. He laughed unsteadily.
“Joseph, make sure your gun’s ready,” Joell said. “I don’t see any other choice but to see where they’re trying to take us.”
When Joseph pulled his rifle from his shoulder, the things laughed again as if it was a joke. Father Oein took out a vial of holy water and held it close to his chest, almost as if it comforted him. Joseph gestured at them to lead the way and the things laughed again and then led them into the caves.
They passed an iron door to the right and then a set of stone steps curving upwards. Soon, they came into a larger cavern and saw scummy water ahead. They saw a burning light ahead that reminded them of firelight across a pool of water. The things turned to the left so that the water was on the right and they walked around it. There was a stench of feces and those who had been there before recognized the place. Four people stood near the burning brazier.
The creatures took them to the same tunnel they had been in a few nights before. It bore off to the left, where they knew the ladder was. A cave opening was to the right. The two stopped and laughed again, talking in their strange language. Then one of them went into the cave.